The Last Chapter of the Hugh Harman Story. When animator, director, producer Hugh Harman passed away November 25,1982, he was living pretty close to the poverty line. He had previously borrowed money over the last decade or more from Roy O. Disney and Friz Freleng (and even frequent small amounts from Mark Kausler and others) to survive. He could no longer afford to own a car and lived in a ramschackle rooming house near the corner of Selma and Cahuenga. He was receiving a monthly allowance from his cartoonist brother Fred (the creator of Red Ryder) that stopped when Fred died in January 1982. Some friends put Harman up in a house in Chatsworth.
I had also loaned Harman a small amount (that I knew would never be paid back) when I met with him at a Bob Clampett presentation in Pasadena just after he had married a Greek woman named Kahtia in 1980. Once she got citizenship and found that Harman had no “hidden” money, she disappeared and Harman engaged the District Attorney and even the FBI to try and locate her but they never did.
Of course, Harman had dreams including one day producing a feature entitled The Good Book (inspired by the “rules” in his 1939 short Peace on Earth) and a live action/animation feature about a boy from outer space. These projects were supposedly going to be financed by a conman named Joe Andari who was trying to talk Harman into purchasing a big studio in Nevada with Harman as the studio head. It later turned out Andari expected Harman to bankroll all the proposed projects while Harman had been under the assumption that Andari was going to supply the financing.
Harman even hoped for the development of a cable television special called The Harman-Ising Story that would have included public domain copies of Warner Brothers Bosko and Merry Melodies shorts and some MGM cartoons that Harman thought he had the rights to use. The script would have starred comedian Milton Berle in all the live action roles from ticket taker to animator. In the script there would have been a short section of new animation of Bosko on an animation desk engaging in “snappy patter” with Berle.
Part of the sadness about Harman’s last years was that he tried never to let his old friends know just how badly off he was (sometimes having breakfast at the Old World restaurant in Beverly Hills) and was too vain to go “backwards” by taking a job as a consultant at an animation studio but wanted to produce new films that he felt were meaningful. He considered many of his earlier shorts to be merely “frivolous wastes of time”.
Music and Animation. Chuck Jones, interviewed in Business Screen magazine (Aug/Sept 1982) said, “Animation – and films in general – probably have more to do with music than with other forms of graphic art. This is because animation is a series of visual impacts. Music is a series of auditory impacts. You hear notes in relation to other notes, and the same is true of film. It has a time factor. If you didn’t retain the visual image, the accents wouldn’t work.”
Bakshi Speaks. Animator and director Ralph Bakshi in the November 1982 issue of American Premiere magazine talking about the recent release of his animated feature Hey Good Lookin’ said, “I want to try to get the same excitement in live action that I was able to create in some of my animated pictures. The challenge of doing something new is basically what I’m looking for and hopefully people will be interested to see what I can do in live action.
“I want to be sure that whatever I do brings something different to live action and I want to bring to live action what I’ve learned in animation – a sense of different timing, of visuals, of cutting patterns. Just as I think I’ve developed an unusual way of treating subject matter. I want to emphasize the importance of casting. In collecting the faces that have appeared as animated characters that I’ve developed, I think, I have a special way of looking at people, of finding different types. You don’t do things hoping they will work. You do them because you have to.”
Cartoons That Never Were 1984. In 1984, Filmation announced that it would be doing an animated feature film entitled “The Son of Sleeping Beauty”. Taft Entertainment said it was exploring a live action series based on Hanna-Barbera’s Jonny Quest. Before Michael Eisner came on board at Disney, the company had seriously considered purchasing Taft Entertainment to make the company less attractive to Saul Steinberg. Marvel Productions announced a joint production with France’s Antenne-2 and South Korea’s Pan Sang East of a twenty-six half hour (budgeted at five million dollars) series based on Jack London’s White Fang. Marvel was to do the story and layouts with the rest of the work being done by Pan Sang.
Disney Channel Violence. Dr. Thomas Radecki, chairman of the National Coalition on Television Violence criticized the Disney Channel in 1984. The group counted 55 murders and 57 attempted murders in fifty hours of cartoons and live action programming. The group specifically cited Donald Duck as a violent character with Radecki stating, “I was particularly disturbed by the Donald Duck and his nephews cartoons which promote spanking as the appropriate and only way to discipline children. Three different Donald Duck cartoons put down non-violent attempts to deal with problem children and offered no alternative type of discipline other than corporal punishment”. The Disney Channel responded that it would continue to select programs based on the “preference of our audience”.
The UnKindest Cut. The first freelance animation work done by animator Mark Kausler was done in March 1972 for the motion picture The War Between Men and Women starring Jack Lemmon and based on the writings of James Thurber. Bob Dranko directed the animation. Kausler produced fifty-eight feet of animation but thirty-eight of it wound up being cut from the picture and the dialog he animated was spoken off-screen in live action between Lemmon and actress Barbara Harris. All that remained of his efforts was the last scene of the man, woman, the children and family terrier walking off to infinity. After that job, it was starvation time for many months as Mark tried to rustle up another freelance gig. Ah, the life of a freelancer!